According to my friends I read depressing books, such as Cry the Beloved Country and Crime and Punishment, and actually enjoy them. What kind of books do I avoid reading because I find them depressing while others seem to relish them? That category would be horror. Other people may be entertained by sinister topics which I cannot completely dismiss as being fictional. The horrendous ideas had to come from somewhere. So, I find myself mourning the human condition rather than being amused.
When younger I read some shorter horror works because I could stand the tension of a darkly emotional world of imagined miseries for a short while. While visiting my aunt, I soon realized that all of her children had their own activities to take up their time. So, I found myself alone with Edgar Allen Poe, the only author I recognized on her bookshelf. Poe is an excellent writer; he uses interior fear rather than exterior gore. He builds tension in a very short time based on the unknown or the insanity of the narrator. But, after reading a dozen or so of his short stories, I had my fill.
However, the stories that I read then don’t fit into the current trend. These older tales had no supernatural terror, and only rarely a vicious or hideous creature, or a happy ending. Characters, such as vampires, blood-thirsty aliens, or demon-possessed people and objects are the stock of more recent horror literature. This genre now seems to be very popular with audiences a bit bored with their life.
The modern monster’s purpose is to boost people’s adrenaline with a dose of terror. They do this job with motives that are often never fully examined or explained. These monsters are often destroyed in a gory manner that out does the viciousness which they impose on their victims. However, the “good” character succeeds, or at least survives, until the next sequel. With too much adrenaline flowing through my veins already, I am not a good candidate for a horror fan.
So, you may wonder why I ever attempted to write a short horror story. My plot dealt with psychological horror in the manner of Henry James’ Turn of the Screw. A modest woman starts to recklessly seek fame as an antidote for her perception of being useless. My piece does not reveal if the woman has an obsession or there is another more sinister problem looming over her life until the end. I discovered most readers were not perceptive enough to catch subtle clues that I thought were hair raising. They wanted obvious ghosts.
These may have been the same people providing input into the Netflix production of The Haunting of Bly Manor series, which was based on the Turn of the Screw. Unlike the series, James’ masterpiece has no obvious ghosts and the reader never knows if the governess was insane or the children were possessed. But, that kind of horror is too subtle for today. So, no more horror story writing for me.